New study indicates poor health — not aging itself — decreases older Americans’ likelihood of voting

University of Wisconsin–Madison sociology professor Michal Engelman led the study, published Oct. 15 in the Journals of Gerontology: Series B, along with sociology graduate student Won-tak Joo, sociology Professor Jason Fletcher and political science Professor Barry Burden.

The study uses data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which Engelman directs. The WLS has followed more than 10,000 Wisconsin high school graduates since 1957, surveying them about once a decade. In addition to the original participants, the survey has interviewed their siblings and spouses and includes detailed data on wealth, physical and mental health, and a range of social activities.

The University of Wisconsin Survery Center has played a key role in the administration of the WLS surveys over the past few decades and are currently administering a new round of interviews with Graduates and their selected Sibling. The latest round began in July 2019 and continue until approximately 2024.

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Poor health threatens voting in older age. Absentee and early voting can help maintain turnout.